A Shingletown health worker turned contractor plans to open a virtual reality arcade in Redding later this year.
The city’s board of directors approved a development permit for the virtual reality gaming center at its meeting in late June.
Entrepreneur Katherine Nerbonne said the new VR “lounge” will be called Nano VR Escape.
Someone immersed in one of the games can go downhill mountain biking, she said, and “if you look around you look over the hill and if you look behind you, you look at the path you’ve already gone down in the real world, of course, you sit in a chair.”
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Nerbonne said some virtual systems will be wheelchair accessible, allowing people to do something they may not be able to do in the real world.
“When someone with quadriplegia turns their head, the chair turns too — in the 3D experience. We’re trying to give our disabled people something to do and our young people to do something,” she said.
Earlier this week, Nerbonne was in New York to sort out the specialized equipment needed to avoid long delays when ordering from manufacturers in China.
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She plans to open the establishment in September in a 2,700-square-foot space at the Hilltop Landing Center near the Chuck E. Cheese family entertainment center on Hilltop Drive.
The VR center will feature 10 entertainment bays, several VR games, VR headsets and a small, octagonal platform device that will allow players to walk, run and crouch while immersing themselves “in” a video game.
The VR lounge is aimed at teens who feel they are too old to join younger siblings on family trips to the nearby Chuck E. Cheese entertainment center, said Nerbonne, who said she has two children, aged 13. and 20 years.
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She hopes that while younger kids and their parents visit Chuck E. Cheese, the family’s teens will head to the VR lounge, rent a headset, and play VR games. “That way everyone is happy when everyone goes home from that mall,” Nerbonne said. “You don’t have that crazy teenager in the backseat.”
The cost to visit the VR center ranges from $40 per hour for headset equipment to play games to $100 for 90 minutes in the party room.
While it sounds pricey, parents already spend enough money to fund their kids’ gaming adventures, she said.
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As industry analysts estimate that the global VR gaming market is expected to reach $12.13 billion this year, establishments including restaurant-entertainment venue Dave & Buster’s have added virtual reality offerings.
Produced by computers, VR allows users to experience a simulated three-dimensional environment. Those worlds are accessible through a virtual reality headset.
In addition, the technology can rely on specialized gloves and bodysuits.
In addition to gaming, VR technology is already being used by train professionals, including airline pilots and mechanics, according to a market report from industry tracker Grand View Research.
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Nerbonne said she owns a construction company and has renovated and sold homes in Shingletown, where she lives, and in New Jersey, where she is a licensed contractor.
She later said there is an opportunity to offer VR rehabilitation services to people with disabilities.
Nerbonne once worked as a licensed nursing assistant, caring for clients who were physically handicapped but highly spiritually aware. “When you talk to them, you hear the misery, the fact that they have nothing to do,” she said.
“My longer goal is (after) the gaming part of it wears out and new headsets come out, is to transition primarily to medical (use),” Nerbonne said.
Michele Chandler addresses city government and housing issues for the Redding Record Searchlight/USA Today Network. Follow her on Twitter on @MChandler_RS, call her at 530-225-8344 or email her at [email protected] Please support our entire editorial team’s dedication to public journalism by subscribing today.